Tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) takes Gillard Government to High Court over plain packaging

From: The Daily Telegraph (Australia)

CIGARETTE giant British American Tobacco _ whose brands include Dunhill, Winfield and Benson & Hedges _ has commenced proceedings in the High Court to try to overturn the Gillard Government’s plain packaging legislation.

British American Tobacco (BAT) _ one of the world’s largest tobacco companies _ said the move was necessary, after the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act received Royal Assent today.

BAT said the High Court proceedings would operate as a test case on the validity of the plain packaging laws relating to property rights of two of its brands, Winfield and Dunhill.

If successful, BAT said the decision should apply to other property and brands sold by the company.

The tobacco giant believes the new laws are “unconstitutional and invalid” due to the fact the Federal Government is trying to acquire intellectual property without compensation.

BAT spokesperson Scott McIntyre said the company would rather not be in this situation.

“But unfortunately for taxpayers the Government has taken us down the legal path,” Mr McIntyre said.

“(Health) Minister (Nicola) Roxon will now waste millions of taxpayers dollars on legal fees defending plain packaging even though she has said herself there is no proof it will reduce smoking rates.

“As a legal company selling a legal product we have consistently said we will defend our valuable intellectual property on behalf of our shareholders as any other company would.

“If the same type of legislation was introduced for a beer brewing company or a fast food chain, then they’d be taking the Government to court and we’re no different.”

Mr McIntyre said there were “many serious consequences” involved with plain packaging.

“`Besides the High Court case the tobacco black market will be flooded with counterfeit cigarettes as they’ll be easier to copy and smuggle into the country once all packs look the same,” he said.

Tobacco companies have until December 1 2012 to introduce plain cigarette packets.

Ms Roxon said today packaging remained one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to “recruit new smokers to their deadly products”.

“But now cigarette packets will only serve as a stark reminder of the devastating health effects of smoking,” she said.


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